ORONO — Experience can be a big factor in the heat of postseason soccer, and the Orono girls have plenty of it, having played for state championships the last two seasons.
The Red Riots moved one step closer to returning to that stage Friday, getting a goal apiece from Alex Crocker, Hanna Renedo and Kate Berry in a 3-0 Eastern Maine Class C semifinal victory over Madawaska at the University of Maine.
The undefeated Riots (15-0-1) will take on top-ranked Fort Kent for the Eastern Maine title on Wednesday, while Madawaska finished 9-5-2.
The same two teams played in the regional final last fall, with the Red Riots winning 1-0.
It didn’t take long for coach Cid Dyjak’s club to assert itself, as the skilled Riots dictated play throughout and had a decided edge in possession, using their big-game experience and skill to wear down the Owls.
“It helps a lot to have been here two years in a row, and now this is the third year. It helps,” Crocker said. “We have the feeling of being in playoffs and we know what it’s like.”
However, Orono couldn’t seem to find the back of the net, with a few shots narrowly missing and Owls goalkeeper Amanda Nadeau making some solid saves.
“I felt we had a lot of pressure on them in the beginning. They played very well, they played hard, and we didn’t score for a while, it looked like we could’ve scored early,” Dyjak said.
The Riots finally broke through 11:11 before halftime, with Berry sending a pass across the middle to Crocker, who took a couple touches and placed a perfect shot into the far post from the left side of the penalty area.
“We as a team always want to get the first goals, not to slack off for the rest of the game, but to keep pushing forward,” said Crocker.
That goal settled Orono down somewhat, and the Riots’ quick passes made it difficult for the Owls to find their marks.
“That’s what we’ve been working on all year; playoff season we can show it off a little bit,” said Crocker.
Madawaska didn’t generate a whole lot of scoring chances, as Orono had a 29-3 edge in shots, but the Owls had a chance to gain the equalizer on a breakaway just before halftime. Riots ‘keeper Jade Keezer dove to her left to stop the shot.
The Riots then showed off freshman Renedo early in the second half, as she pounced on a loose ball at the top of the penalty area and blasted the ball high and off the tips of Nadeau’s gloves and into the net 1:05 into the second half.
“I was really impressed with Jade and Hanna, they both stepped it up, Hanna being a freshman stepping it up and (is) really amazing going at goal,” Crocker said.
Berry scored Orono’s final goal with 8:28 remaining in regulation.
Anytime the Owls would clear the ball past midfield, Riots’ sweeper Caleigh Paul was right there to send it back up into Orono’s offensive end.
“She’s a wonderful player, very composed, and she’s got a toughness about her that is very unique,” Dyjak said. “She’s a very tough kid.”
Renedo and Berry also played crucial roles for the Riots offensively, since Crocker and classmate Ruth Mares draw a lot of attention.
“It’s very, very effective when we do have other people score as well, it spreads the game out,” Dyjak said.
Riley Mahan, Berry, Taylor Chasse and Shelby Wheeler played solidly in the midfield for Orono, while Keezer was relatively untested minus the first-half breakaway in making three saves.
Nadeau came up with 11 stops for Madawaska.